Pioneering project at University of Bath aims to recycle plastic lab waste

The plant is capable of recycling up to 60% of plastic lab waste into plastic pellets that can then be transformed into new test tubes and petri dishes

A pair of hands in blue gloves put test tubes in rows in a white holder
Pixabay/fernando zhiminaicela

A University of Bath graduate has founded a company that aims to transform plastic lab waste into recycled laboratory equipment.

LabCycle, founded by Dr Helen Liang, aims to recycle up to 60% of plastic lab waste, such as pipette tips, test tubes, petri dishes and multi-well plates. Currently only around 1% of plastic lab waste is recycled.

“Research and healthcare workers can focus on reducing and reusing single-use plastic items when possible,” Liang shared.

“Encouragingly, more than 90% of our survey participants from the research and healthcare sectors have indicated strong motivation on single-use plastic waste recycling,” she emphasised.

Liang obtained a PhD in sustainable and circular technologies from the University of Bath in 2022.

LabCycle has secured funds of about £430,000 to start the commercialisation process.

A successful pilot was conducted in 2022, recycling single-use plastic from three University of Bath laboratories. A pilot recycling plant has now been established in a converted greenhouse on campus.

LabCycle is working with the local NHS Blood and Transplant to recycle waste from their laboratories.

Healthcare settings, including optometry practices, that provide refreshments for patients could be affected by a single use plastics ban that will come into effect on 1 October.